I formed the suit’s helmet and set the suit to triangulate the source of the sound. Then I pulled the cavern’s map out of the implant’s memory. Though it took longer than it would have with the implant’s network connection, I knew where the voice came from and how it happened.
I tapped my palm, going live on the League’s communication system, “They’re coming out of Tunnel Three.”
Only Jaclyn, Marcus, and Cassie could hear me. They’d have to tell Katuk and Tikki.
Tunnel Three crossed under Four. If they had some way to detect it or if Alanna had given them a map, it wouldn’t be hard to break through.
Waving to get Kals’ attention, I pointed toward the source of the noise. “Tunnel Three!”
At the same time, I loosed a few spybots, giving me a better views of the situation.
Tunnel Three came out between two buildings, both of them tall blocks of rock that went from the bottom to the top of the cavern. I couldn’t know how many people they held, but this cavern had to hide a few thousand people.
My guess was hundreds. Each one was at least as large as my dorm at college and I’d heard it held three hundred.
That mattered because as I watched, streaks of red light became visible through the windows of different floors in each building. The light went from one side of the buildings to another.
I didn’t need the suit’s enhanced senses to hear the sound of screams or the crackle of the beams.
I shared the visuals with Marcus, Jaclyn, and Cassie.
As I did, one of the Ascendancy soldiers leaned out of a third-floor window and aimed a thick muzzled gun down at the people on the street, leaving five bodies unmoving on the ground and more screaming and running.
Cassie’s voice echoed in my helmet. “Holy fuck.”
Next to me, Kals asked, “Do you know what’s going on?”
“They’re clearing whole floors of buildings with really big guns.”
She froze. “They’re using burners?”
And that pulled up a multitude of flashing implant memories, giving me visions of the same gun on world after world. The Ascendancy used burners to commit mass murder. They weren’t effective against soldiers. Standard military armor prevented them from doing much damage.
The guns fired off a flammable foam that expanded in a high-speed stream and separated, blending into the air. Then, when the gun heated up the main mass, it triggered all the foam in range, including any that had been breathed into the human body unless the people were lucky enough to become inaccessible.
Still wearing the armor she’s worn to go to the fight, Kals pulled a mask out of the jacket. It spread to cover her face. When she spoke through it, her voice sounded no different, something I wanted to investigate if I ever had time. “It figures that they’d pull those out only after only after I told everyone to turn off their implants. We’d better get over there and try to stop this or at least minimize the damage.”
I ran with her, telling Jaclyn, Marcus and Cassie to check their implants for information on burners. The distance wasn’t far enough to take flight and besides, I didn’t want them to know I was coming until I appeared.
We ran down the street against the flow of people, many running all out. Kals slowed to tell people to be careful, to watch for anyone who had been hurt, and to be as orderly as possible.
I got ahead of her—which was probably for the best. I didn’t know how good her armor was or wasn’t. Also, something bugged me about what was happening. It came into focus as I noticed a picture from the opening of Tunnel Three.
Kamia stood alone in the mouth of the stone doorway, helping me put words to the problem. It felt flashy and distracting, but not real. They didn’t need to do something that drew our attention that well unless they were trying to distract us from something else—like for example, where the other people in the group were?
I stopped one building away from Kamia, able to see her with my own eyes as she shouted and sometimes shot down the street with her weapons.
Someone stopped next to me and I turned to find Jaclyn instead of Kals. “The rest are on their way. I decided to come first because we might be able to stop this between the two of us.”
I thought about it. Jaclyn might be able to stop it by herself. “There’s something you should think about. I think this might be a distraction. I mean, where’s everyone else? We know there are more of them.”
Jaclyn looked Kamia and said, “That makes sense, but I can’t let them keep this up, can you?”
Another reddish blast flashed in the direction of the crowd. “No.”
She nodded. “See if you can think of any way to take out Kamia. I’m going to stop the soldiers.”
She took two steps. The first gave her some speed. She used the second to leap, hitting the fifth floor of the nearest building and going through the wall.
I looked at Kamia and the glowing force field around her. Much as I disliked the idea, I knew what I had to try.